Two Women Writers
· Poems, Anne Bradstreet, read the following:
· “The Flesh and the Spirit”
· “The Author to Her Book”
· “ Upon the Burning of Our House”
· “In Memory of My Dear Grandchild” (all 3 poems, pp 242)
· ***“A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration,” Mary Rowlandson, pp 267-84; 293-301
In this Module, we read two important early American women writers: Anne Bradstreet and Mary Rowlandson. Both of these writers were very influential in early American literature and history. In a very real sense, both of these women were “on their own” in the vast wilderness of the New World. Rowlandson is literally in the “savage” wilderness, captive to Indians; but also, as a lone female poet struggling to learn her art and develop her technique, Bradstreet is also “alone” in the wilderness of the “literary world”. In the Neoclassical Age, to develop as a poet, a poet needs to interact with other poets, needs access to literature and the society of literate people to learn and master the techniques that “make a poet” then. These things did not exist in Bradstreet’s time in America, so her poems are more amazing because she really did achieve it all by herself.
Unlike most of the Puritan writers, Bradstreet’s poetry continues to be very popular in the modern day, and she is always a popular discovery for many readers in this class. She is foundational in the creation of a “tradition” of women’s literature in American Literary history, but it’s important to also note that she is also the foundational poet in all American Literature. Edward Taylor, the other important poet of the Puritan period, does not have the modern popularity and appeal that Bradstreet does. Readers just enjoy Bradstreet’s poems more, and fewer readers know Taylor than Bradstreet.
Rowlandson is influential for different reasons. She is not the “great writer” that Bradstreet is; rather, she is an average writer with a great tale to tell, and we read her today to gain insight into the ideas and the time (and because it’s fun to read). Her narrative is somewhat controversial in the modern day because her descriptions of Native Americans, and the judgments she makes of their society, were widely read. Some modern readers believe, therefore, that her narrative helps to establish the negative stereotypes of Native Americans that, in later years, contribute to the destruction of Indian culture. On the other hand, many readers find her narrative exciting, revealing, and connected to the active ideas of their own Faith. It is also factually true, and the massacre that begins the narrative took place in actual history not far from this College. As well, many modern Christian readers still react profoundly to her text, and it’s interesting to see that even after 300 years, she is still addressing her Christian audience successfully. Still other readers just find it a really interesting and enjoyable historical read!
· Think about the poems of Bradstreet. What themes does Bradstreet focus on in her poems? Talk about one or two of the big ideas you think Bradstreet develops.
· Bradstreet writes a kind of poem that is often called “contemplative”. Review the glossary entry for contemplative poetry, and then apply that definition to one of the poems by Bradstreet.
· Why do you think Bradstreet’s poems remain popular with readers in the modern day? Speculate on the question using the readings you’ve completed.
· What poem by Bradstreet did you like best: summarize the poem and explain why.
· What about Rowlandson? What themes come out of her “Captivity Narrative”? Explain
· What are the “negative stereotypes”, that some readers object to in Rowlandson? Do you think she is harsh, demeaning, or unfair to the Natives, or is her attitude understandable? Explain.
· At first, Rowlandson is filled, understandably , with great anger, hatred, and fear of her Indian masters. Does Rowlandson change her views of Natives by the end of her story? If so, how? Where do you see it, if at all?
· What part of Rowlandson’s narrative did you enjoy the most, or find the most interesting? Summarize the episode and explain why.
· Which of the two writers did you enjoy reading more? Why? Explain.